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 Post subject: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 11:12 am 
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Fuel is cheap, every system has it (AFAIK) and yet scooping is both time consuming (travel) and dangerous (more encounters plus the skimming itself). That strikes me as a rather poor return for what is an interesting piece of kit and gameplay.

Fuel scoops also gather cargo and escape pods of course but how many of us regularly sun-skim as a strategic choice? It's almost an interesting mini-game that isn't much use outside of missions. Topping up the injectors is one obvious use but you have to get there first and so may as well have headed straight for the planet in many instances.

Personally, I think there's an interesting piece of gameplay here that is being underused. It's perhaps comparable with docking: a non-combat skill that can kill you if you're not careful but can be made much easier with an equipment purchase (docking computers/heat shielding).

Possibilities:
  • Fuel is not ubiquitous: Maybe anarchies for example just don't have it for sale - none of the companies will risk shipping it.
  • Fuel is more expensive: Early game cheap fuel makes the game much more playable but how about it being more expensive in the more dangerous systems? Even if it doubled with each government grade it would still affordable for the seasoned trader.
  • Scooped fuel can be sold: If we can sell mined minerals then why not fuel? Even selling it to rock hermits with their current pricing might be viable. It may not be on the commodities list but it has a price and can already be bought.
  • Scooped fuel is better in some way: a little messy as there would be two fuels to track and then how might they mix?
  • Place the Sun closer to the witchpoint: If it's on your doorstep then skimming is already more tempting and as a bonus you might also encounter more outbound traffic (with a corresponding reduction in masslock duration).

Thoughts welcomed...

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 12:10 pm 
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Interesting ideas! It's certainly true that there are very few advantages to scooping fuel, making it an almost completely unnecessary skill - which is a shame. I wouldn't like to make it compulsory, though.

However, it could be part of a valid tactic if the player wanted to trade in illegal goods. Currently, it's possible to buy a whole bunch of narcotics, jump to the next system, and sell them in the main station (with some attendant problems regarding the player's criminal record). The crime is "leaving a main station with illegal goods on board": bringing them in to a station is not a problem, nor is selling them, regardless of the player's legal status.

But if the authorities automatically confiscated any illegal cargo carried by an Offender player on docking (and fined them, too, maybe, to clear the criminal record), that would mean that a player would have to make several jumps before they were able to sell the cargo - which would mean that a smuggler would almost perforce have to become a sunskimmer, too (especially if Rock Hermits stopped selling fuel - which is probably a good tweak). Players wouldn't have to sunskim, but if they want to make a living trading in illegal goods, then this would be part of the deal.

Another idea would perhaps be to make occasional fuel shortages (resulting in either higher prices, or low quantities, or both) in certain systems - perhaps those with "solar activity" in the F7 description? If the player had the option to either go and skim their own fuel, or wait out the solar storm, this would mean that sunskimming still wasn't necessary - unless the player is in a hurry.

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:08 pm 
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Interesting ideas! It's certainly true that there are very few advantages to scooping fuel, making it an almost completely unnecessary skill - which is a shame. I wouldn't like to make it compulsory though.
Agreed, at least in the sense that one should be able to avoid it most of the time.

The 'solar storm' idea could be a nice way of making use of some F7 data.

Another one would be to have some systems uninhabited. They could still have a planet (and even a station if desired) but not be a galcop trading station. Most galaxy maps have a junction system that it is necessary to pass through in order to cross from one section of the map to another. Imagine if such a system were officially uninhabited...

One of the problems here is that (along with most equipment items) the scoops can be damaged and so any compulsory scooping scenario risks getting stuck somewhere (if without repair facilities).

Haven't got a great reason for this next one yet but what if the standard fuel capacity for a ship were 6.0 LY and only by scooping could it be raised to 7.0 LY (as if scooping could 'supercharge' the fuel even if the tanks were already 'full'). Then, most of the time, there is no need to scoop but just occasionally it would be necessary. The galaxy map would then 'open up' a little more once the player had scoops. Injector burn rate could be adjusted to compensate if that were an issue.

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 2:33 pm 
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Quote:
if scooping could 'supercharge' the fuel
Another idea: maybe sunskimming is required to activate a galactic hyperdrive? Of course, this might be problematic for one of the native missions (unless special circumstances allow the galactic drive to activate without sunskimming …).

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 2:44 pm 
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Quote:
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if scooping could 'supercharge' the fuel
Another idea: maybe sunskimming is required to activate a galactic hyperdrive? Of course, this might be problematic for one of the native missions (unless special circumstances allow the galactic drive to activate without sunskimming …).
If it's the mission I'm thinking of (recalling how it worked on the Speccy) then there's an argument to say that you wouldn't need to scoop in order to get a 'solar supercharging' in such a system...

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 3:24 pm 
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Yes, I think in that particular instance, sunskimming could be taken as read!

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 7:24 pm 
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In Classic Elite on the BBC micro I recall the game-play started to get too easy once you had military lasers, so to increase number of kills per trading run (and save a small amount of money) I would sun-skim on the outward journey to encounter more pirates per trading run. This was the only reason to sun-skim.

The special cargo contract system in Elite-A and Elite-B behave differently from Oolite's. Rather than time is distance^2 the cargo value drops upon each station docking, so sun-skimming without dockings to cover the vast distance to the cargo's destination becomes important.

In Elite-A the initial purchase (deposit) is 12.5% and the cargo value halves upon each docking. So after 3 docks you will lose money. In Elite-B this trade option is easier, the
deposit is 10% and cargo value drops by a quarter upon each docking. So Elite-B allows 8 docks (and saving game status) before losing money.

To implement something similar in Oolite would require a large time penalty to dock and refuel, perhaps a day elapses before permission given to relaunch?

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 7:35 pm 
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Quote:
To implement something similar in Oolite would require a large time penalty to dock and refuel, perhaps a day elapses before permission given to relaunch?
That's a possibility, but if cargo and especially parcel contracts require players not to dock in order to meet the delivery target then they lose value; the player is prevented from doing any trading on the side during the delivery. Making contract and parcel deliveries harder would mean increasing the delivery fees. Not a reason not to do it, but it would need to be balanced.

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 11:31 pm 
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I really like some of these ideas! Very cool.

Some thoughts:
Quote:
Scooped fuel is better in some way: a little messy as there would be two fuels to track and then how might they mix?
I think Black Monks does this.
Quote:
However, it could be part of a valid tactic if the player wanted to trade in illegal goods. Currently, it's possible to buy a whole bunch of narcotics, jump to the next system, and sell them in the main station (with some attendant problems regarding the player's criminal record). The crime is "leaving a main station with illegal goods on board": bringing them in to a station is not a problem, nor is selling them, regardless of the player's legal status.

But if the authorities automatically confiscated any illegal cargo carried by an Offender player on docking (and fined them, too, maybe, to clear the criminal record), that would mean that a player would have to make several jumps before they were able to sell the cargo - which would mean that a smuggler would almost perforce have to become a sunskimmer, too (especially if Rock Hermits stopped selling fuel - which is probably a good tweak). Players wouldn't have to sunskim, but if they want to make a living trading in illegal goods, then this would be part of the deal.
Smugglers does this - fining the player if they dock with illegal cargo and confiscating it.

Another idea: remove fuel from all galcop/oxp stations, and limit it to a fuel station that is positioned on the opposite side of the planet to the main station (or in some other consistent position). Fuel is a combustible materiel so it would be prudent to keep it out of the way of most space-farers. Possibly using the "Fuel Station" oxp for this purpose. Or, if not completely removing it from other stations, only allow for 1ly worth of fuel to be bought at galcop stations (sort of like an emergency ration), and full refuelling can only be done at fuel stations or by skimming.

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 5:38 pm 
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Im not too sure about all this. Think of the new jameson who hasnt got enough money for a scoop, who now has all kinds of extra hassle just to be able to get to another system and sell his tiny collection of wares.

I would rather see (yes it a big change) something more along the lines of larger ships needing way more fuel, so people flying small fighters dont care too much about fuel and dont fit scoops (doesnt make sense for me anyway to have industrial gear on a fighter) whereas people flying a boa or whatever find the pain of buying 1000s of Cr of fuel just for a short jump enough to justify fitting a scoop. This way you make larger ships use more fuel (makes sense, huh?), create a good reason to have scoops and dont hurt the new guy by sending him on a wild goose chase in each system. It also explains away the strange limitation that even a huge ship can only carry a tiny fuel load when (at least with an OXP) anyone can fit a small extra tank to carry loads more. Why dont big ships have big fuel tanks? Answer they do, but you still only get a 7LY jump from it :)

It also isnt, as far as I know, against canon since canonically there is only a 7LY limit with no real info on what that means for ships other than a Cobra. Presumably the price for 7LY is actually just calculated to fill the tank of whatever you are flying?


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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 8:38 pm 
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Quote:
Why dont big ships have big fuel tanks? Answer they do, but you still only get a 7LY jump from it :)
I like this approach. The distance is limited by the hyperdrive technology so can not open wormholes farther even if there is unlimited amount of fuel on board, but opening a large tunnel which is enough for a big ship probably consume much more fuel.

The cost of fuel could be measured in credits/kg instead of credits/ly, then a big ship must buy even 1000 times more kg to get 7 ly fuel.

For simplicity I think all small ships (escorts below 130t) and the stock Cobra Mk3 could stay with the current cheap fuel, then all others over 130t mass must buy a 1000 times more costly fuel variant. Cobra is an exception with a backround story like this is a new design with special light airframe to be able to use the fuel efficient hyperdrive of escorts, making a strong explorer ship, and this is also the reason of the limited cargo capacity in a large hull. Only the official cobra should offer this bonus, so XT/Miner/other cobras require the fuel hungry hyperdrive of trader ships imho.

Selling fuel is also a good idea. Especially with an external fuel tank could worth to go to the sun first after a jump, then to the planet, where sometimes could be high prices because temporary fuel shortage where worth to sell some spare fuel. Even an additional sunskimming round is considerable in this case, but after a few rounds the prices should fall back to the normal value due to the player solved the shortage problem.

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 10:32 pm 
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Quote:
The special cargo contract system in Elite-A and Elite-B behave differently from Oolite's. Rather than time is distance^2 the cargo value drops upon each station docking, so sun-skimming without dockings to cover the vast distance to the cargo's destination becomes important.
Interesting...

Quote:
if not completely removing it from other stations, only allow for 1ly worth of fuel to be bought at galcop stations (sort of like an emergency ration), and full refuelling can only be done at fuel stations or by skimming.
I'm inclined to agree with Disembodied that the beginning pilot should be be able to ignore any fuel restrictions most of the time which is why I suggested a more gernerous limit of 6LY. I appreciate that your fuel station idea tempers the restriction but it likely adds time rather than gameplay (that needn't be the case of course but I'm currently seeing it as two station stops in a system instead of just one... other side of the planet could be cool though).

Quote:
It also isnt, as far as I know, against canon since canonically there is only a 7LY limit with no real info on what that means for ships other than a Cobra. Presumably the price for 7LY is actually just calculated to fill the tank of whatever you are flying?
From the Elite manual:
Quote:
The Cobra Mk III is the best of the medium-range, medium capacity fighter- traders...
What exactly 'medium-range' means may be open to debate but I can't think of a more likely candidate than jump range.

As for big ships needing big fuel expenditure, they don't come all that much bigger than the mk III so the handwaving might need a bit of polish there unless the standard start is to become much more difficult.

Also, if you don't play in a big ship then you would have no real reason to scoop. And why should you? It just seems like a nice, simple bit of gameplay that is currently underused IMHO.

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2017 12:51 am 
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I've been playing with "sun_distance_modifier" = "65.0"; so its a good 10 minute journey to the sun, if not more. The systems look great this way, but once, when I took a contract to move some contraband as a new Jameson (New Cargos), I ended up changing my modifier back to the default.
I like the idea of making skimming a more beneficial, currently its not really worth the extra time in light of how cheap fuel is, but I don't think it should always be the better option either.
Quote:
Another one would be to have some systems uninhabited.
I like this idea, a good way to deal with the damaged scoops issue would be to spawn a fairly regular flow of NPCs traffic that would skim then jump. A stranded player would just have to wait/survive long enough for one of these ships to create a wormhole.
Quote:
Another idea would perhaps be to make occasional fuel shortages
This would support the idea that less than 7ly of fuel might be available in some systems. I think some kind of general inflation on fuel pricing that begins once the player has had a little time to get some equipment would help slow game progression and give the player more incentive to do a little skimming. Shortages could be even more interesting if they also affected market pricing somewhat so a system or sector affected by the shortage might be more profitable for a commander willing to do some skimming.
Quote:
Another idea: remove fuel from all galcop/oxp stations, and limit it to a fuel station that is positioned on the opposite side of the planet to the main station (or in some other consistent position). Fuel is a combustible materiel so it would be prudent to keep it out of the way of most space-farers. Possibly using the "Fuel Station" oxp for this purpose. Or, if not completely removing it from other stations, only allow for 1ly worth of fuel to be bought at galcop stations (sort of like an emergency ration), and full refuelling can only be done at fuel stations or by skimming.
I wouldn't mind this except that before I get the ASC sometimes I really have trouble finding the mainstation especially if its in the shadow of the planet, finding a fuel station might be very troublesome. It would also make it easy to avoid the mainstation for someone with a contract to move contraband or with a fugitive status. I think the idea has merit though, perhaps only a few systems feel the need to store fuel in a separate location, maybe some mainstations in more dangerous systems never even set up a refueling facility and an alternative fuel station sprang up on the other side of the planet.
Quote:
Think of the new jameson who hasnt got enough money for a scoop, who now has all kinds of extra hassle just to be able to get to another system and sell his tiny collection of wares.
I agree with this and I think something like this should be delayed so a new commander can get a good start first. I also think anyone thinking of implementing this to consider something I believe Cody mentioned, something along the lines of "I think a lot of OXP stuff should be more rare." I am as guilty of overdoing it as anyone else probably but with this I really think that too much might become tedious very quickly.
Quote:
The cost of fuel could be measured in credits/kg instead of credits/ly, then a big ship must buy even 1000 times more kg to get 7 ly fuel.
Yikes! Why should those guys be treated differently? I don't know seems like the player would have to skim just to make a profit, it might even make it pointless to get a larger ship anyway. I don't know this just seems a little too restrictive. The player doesn't compete with with other players so placing restrictions on specific ships that only affect the player doesn't make much sense to me. I think it would tend to limit the player to a specific set of roles while I feel we should encourage the player to explore more roles.

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2017 1:07 am 
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Quote:
I wouldn't mind this except that before I get the ASC sometimes I really have trouble finding the mainstation especially if its in the shadow of the planet, finding a fuel station might be very troublesome.
Good point. I sometimes forget that new pilots don't have this piece of kit by default.

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 Post subject: Re: Fuel Scooping
PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2017 6:50 am 
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Selling fuel sounds great to me -- speaking as a miner, I sure wouldn't mind another way of making small bits of money incredibly slowly...

With a Torus To Sun drive, it really isn't that bad of a trip.
(I mean -- says the one who cracks rocks for a living, soo,,,.)
But actually though. Even with realistic star distances, it's really not that bad.

(If you do do selling, though, maybe make sure to limit it in some way for Rock Hermits -- it would feel... a bit cheap, especially for e.g. that one rock hermit I found that was in close solar orbit.)


Also, iirc Diplomacy OXP currently runs their galacto-political actions when you're in a station, so I don't know if they've YET implemented dramatic market changes due to active fighting, but when (probably) they do, and you're rushing to get your very-valuable cargo of guns (or food. or computers. or medicine. Probably not luxuries, though.) to market at one (or both) of those system before the conflict ends, that's another reason to sun-skim.


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